England’s record goalscorer Wayne Rooney says children should be banned from heading the ball, following the example of the United States, to reduce the chances of getting dementia later in life.
Former Barcelona and England star Gary Lineker and 1966 World Cup winner Geoff Hurst are among leading names who have called for new regulations to prevent children heading balls.
A study carried out in Scotland concluded professional footballers are around three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population.
Rooney told the Daily Telegraph he witnessed the US rules first hand with his son Kai when he played for MLS franchise DC United.
“When we lived in the States, my eldest boy was in a football team and heading was banned in training and in games,” said Rooney, who is now interim player-manager of Championship side Derby.
“If the ball was coming to their head, they moved away from it and let it run through, so maybe that’s something that could happen on a more regular basis over here.
“Clearly, something needs to change to make sure this doesn’t happen to the next generation of players when young men are dying of this disease.”
Lawyers have confirmed an action has begun on behalf of former players suffering with the neurodegenerative disease, who plan to seek compensation from organisations understood to include the Football Association.
However, Mark Bullingham, FA chief executive, says despite the findings of the Scottish study — which the FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) co-funded — it is “not entirely clear cut” what causes the increased risk.
“My mother suffers from it (dementia). I see it first hand. It’s horrible,” he said. “I don’t think it’s entirely clear cut to identify the risk factors.
“But obviously heading could be one of those risk factors and that’s why we put in place all the guidelines we have with regards to youth football, which I think are actually tougher than any other country in the world.”—AP